Committee Of 70: Budget Crisis Time For 'Bold Reform'

The Committee of 70 just released "Tackling True Reform: Why Philadelphia Must Innovate," the latest in its series of "Roadmaps to Reform.  After the jump, you can read the group's news release.


PHILADELPHIA – September 15, 2009 – The Committee of Seventy today challenged Mayor Nutter and other city leaders to pursue a set of bold reforms to reshape city government in the wake of the current budget crisis.

A report entitled, “Tackling True Reform: Why Philadelphia Must Innovate,” is in part a plea to the mayor to revisit his promise to the voters in the 2007 mayoral campaign to “turn City Hall upside down,” said Zack Stalberg, President and CEO of the non-partisan, nonprofit government watchdog group.

The report is attached and is also available at

It calls for a city government that is leaner and is focused on driving growth in jobs and population at a time when the nation appears to be climbing out of recession. “It doesn’t take an economist to realize that the post-recessionary period will be a good one for big cities,” said Stalberg, “but only those cities with the lust to compete. We want Philadelphia to be one of them.”

“Tackling True Reform” comes at a time when the General Assembly appears to be moving toward approval of short-term measures to deal with Philadelphia’s budget crisis, including an increase in the city’s sales tax from 7 to 8 percent. Mayor Nutter has been fully and properly engaged in getting those measures passed.

“We certainly understand the need to avoid imminent calamity and the possibility of real human tragedy,” said Stalberg, “but we also feel compelled to underscore the need for long-term structural reforms in City Hall.”

Included among the recommendations in “Tackling True Reform” are:
• Shrinking the size and cost of city government, related agencies and authorities.

• Moving swiftly to revamp the Board of Revision of Taxes so assessments can be trusted and revenue can be maximized.

• Reining in the unwritten practice of “Councilmanic prerogative” as part of a sweeping effort to make Philadelphia friendlier to business, development and job growth.

• Acting on Mayor Nutter’s idea to abolish four independently-elected “row offices” that are no longer needed – except to house patronage workers and the relatives of politicians.

• Realizing the full potential of the city’s 3-1-1 customer service system, including elimination of redundant efforts in City Council and elsewhere in government.

• Fully examining the nearly 60-year-old Home Rule Charter and especially the constraints it imposes in a high-tech era.

The report also stresses that Philadelphians will have to realize that less costly government might very well provide fewer services than they have come to expect.

“As a practical matter,” Stalberg said, “Mayor Nutter will have to exercise leadership if any of this is to be accomplished. In this town, in particular, it will take backbone and political skill to overcome those forces that reflexively oppose change.” 

The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan organization fighting for clean and effective government, fair elections and informed citizens. “Tackling True Reform: Why Philadelphia Must Innovate” is the latest in
a series of “Roadmap to Reform” reports issued by Seventy. The entire series can be downloaded free of charge from